Today I was reading a blog that I often read (www.soulemama.typepad.com) --even though my life is nothing like hers, I enjoy it. Today was about Sundays when she was a kid, and what Sundays are like now with her own kids.
My own memories of Sundays, like so much of my childhood, come in a blur (frenzy even) of people and noise. Sunday mass was a given, as was a big mid-day meal (the only main meal my Dad could attend when I was little and he worked nights). Sometimes, there were muffins after church--I recall oatmeal muffins hot out of the oven with butter melting on them. Sometimes my Dad's brother would come, with his seven kids, and then the house was really insane.
My early childhood didn't have a lot of "family together time"--except maybe Saturday night TV, eating steak and cabbage for dinner in the living room. My parents were too busy to "make family time" (my Dad working, my mother trying to keep us fed and clothed and quiet while my Dad was sleeping)...and I was too much younger than everyone else to feel a part of things.
Later, though, when my siblings grew up and started moving out (which started when I was five), rituals gradually developed, like playing cribbage after dinner with my mother every night--first it was my brother Mike, then my sister Pat or brother Kevin, then me. This happened even before the table was cleared and the dishes washed.
On Christmas Eve every year, my Dad would make seafood chowder and at some point that evening everyone would drop by and have some chowder and chat.
I also developed my own rituals with siblings during my teenage years. Sometimes, when I would babysit for my brother Kevin's son, Adam (now a father himself!), we would play games of Trivial Pursuit after he got home. When my sister Kaethi separated from her husband, she would often have me over to visit on Friday nights when the kids went to their Dad's. We would have dinner--and often a lovely home made cheesecake for dessert. And we'd just...hang out. Talk. I can't recall if we watched TV or played games.
What I do know is that these two siblings (my oldest and youngest) made me feel like it was okay to just be myself, that I didn't have to try to be better or different for them. It didn't matter that I was younger than them, and it didn't matter that I was so different from them. We just bonded. It brings tears to my eyes even to remember how important that was in during those very, very painful years when mostly I just felt inferior and out of place in my family.
I hope that we are building rituals that my own kids will remember fondly (you know, to make up for the ways that their parents aren't fun at all). Among those I know that I will treasure from parenting them are:
1) Bedtime rituals: reading books with them, and our long and complex good-night routines in which I've told them for years what to dream about (Sam once told me, when he was about five "you know, Mum, I don't actually dream about that stuff, even if I try." So sweet).
2) Home made present night during Hanukkah--always the best night of them all. Every year, we grow into this more. We each get better with our present-making abilities, and we each get better at making things that our family members will like.
3) Flashlight walks at night in the fall, when it's still warm enough to walk, and dark enough after dinner to take a flashlight. Who knew the kids would love that so much?
4) Friday family night--shabbat candles and challah, dinner in the dining room...and then a family movie.
5) Library trips at least once a week during the summer.
6) Game nights or art nights. They don't happen as often as they once did, but they are fun when they come together! We've had some pretty danged silly story telling game nights, and charades...and who can forget the origami frog races?
Our rituals change with seasons, and with location. Here in Quito, we sometimes just turn off the lights at night at stare out at the city. On Sundays, we go to the park and get ice cream. Tuesday is dinner out night.
In Maine, it's walks on the breakwater on mild spring and summer evenings, with nights curled up in the living room near the wood stove in the winter. It's definitely pancakes and bacon in Maine, and trips to the nearby ice cream store in the summer (chocolate lover's chocolate is the favorite for both Anya and me).
And, when the day is long and hard and we're all in foul moods...then we know (without question) that it's time to watch a few "Shawn the Sheep" episodes.
What rituals do you love?